Curtis Campher, Josh Little and David Delany have been awarded their first full-time senior contracts by Cricket Ireland. They are among a batch of 18 centrally contracted players for 2021, with a further two on retainer deals.
Campher, a former South Africa U-19 allrounder, impressed on debut in the summer, scoring back-to-back half-centuries and taking five wickets in three ODIs against England. Little played twice in the series, picking up five wickets, while Delany has featured eight times in T20Is since his debut in 2019.
Those to miss out on contracts from the 2020 group were Boyd Rankin, Tyrone Kane and Stuart Thompson - all of whom played in Ireland's maiden Test in 2018 - while George Dockrell and Shane Getkate were switched on to retainers. Seamer Peter Chase has returned to the full-time list.
Cricket Ireland announced earlier this week a change to the contractual period, with new deals running from March 2021 until February 2022, instead of in line with the calendar year. Those players retaining contracts will have their current deal extended from December 31 up until the end of February.
"Two years ago the selectors embarked on a long-term strategy that aimed to identify and mould a squad of players with the right blend of skill sets that will allow us to compete on multiple fronts and in varying conditions around the world," Andrew White, chairman of national men's selectors, said.
"A key part of this was a strategic approach to succession planning, and 2021 will see a further step in this process. We believe this selection reflects the successful implementation of that strategy - perhaps best demonstrated by the number of players under the age of 25 in our recent victory against England.
"The selectors have been extremely pleased with the successful start to Curtis Campher's Irish career, and the positive progress displayed by two exciting young talented pacemen in Josh Little and David Delany - it's exciting for fans to see these three young players in the green, and it creates a sense of anticipation as to the potential impact they may have on the international stage.
"We have also been delighted by the hard work and commitment shown by Peter Chase in improving his game - when he lost his full-time contract last year, Peter went away and worked on his action and approach to his craft, and we hope that he will once again be showing his skills at the highest levels."
Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland's high performance director, said that the decision had been taken to only offer 18 full-time contracts - as opposed to 19 in 2020 - in order to add more players on retainers. He added that "despite the uncertainty that hangs around world cricket due to the pandemic", Ireland hoped to contest a full international programme in 2021, culminating in a trip to India for the T20 World Cup.
"The limited performances in 2020 showed remarkable progress," Holdsworth said. "Despite dealing with the obvious challenges, we can look back with great pride at wins over the West Indies in the Caribbean, England in England, and Afghanistan in subcontinent conditions. However, the result is only half the story - that many young players stepped up and began to perform on the highest stage was probably just as pleasing.
"Graham Ford, Andrew Balbirnie and the selectors should be proud of the way they are moulding a competitive and confident squad. Fingers crossed for a big 2021 with many more great performances."
Full-time contracts: Mark Adair, Andrew Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Peter Chase, David Delany, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Kevin O'Brien, William Porterfield, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Gary Wilson, Craig Young
Retainers: George Dockrell, Shane Getkate